Goodwill stores across the region were calling on Chris Jeffery for inventory Friday morning, and he had precious little to offer.
Donations have dwindled so much that Goodwill Industries' operations center at 3217 Brooklyn Ave. has lots of empty space where rolling carts filled with used clothing, shoes, sporting equipment and other goods should be. If that operations center looks lean, it means the nine area Goodwill stores will run short on inventory soon, too. “All the things that stores sell flow out of this facility,” Jeffery said.
He said donations are arriving at only 30 percent of the usual pace. It hasn't been a slow decline, either; the pace of material flowing into the Goodwill stores has collapsed in just the last couple of weeks.
Speculation as to the cause varies. Jeffery mentioned the weather – first an ice storm, then a snow storm in a short period, both of which discourage people from running optional errands. The state of the economy may be a drag on donations, too, he suggested.
Thirty-five people staff a single eight-hour shift, six days a week, at the operations department – a kind of sorting warehouse attached to the Brooklyn Avenue store. Besides considering whether donations are marketable in this area, the workers at that operations center also sort materials for recycling and prepare them for redistribution to stores around the area.
Retail and Operations Director Lori McCutcheon appealed Thursday for more donations for the regional Goodwill. "We are really desperate for donations, especially housewares and shoes." she said in that appeal. "We had a very hot summer and not as many people had garage sales as they normally do. We saw a slight uptick at the end of summer, but we went into the fall knowing we were low." She said donations collected at peak times, such as summer, enable Goodwill to keep its nine stores at full capacity during the winter months when bad weather slows down giving.
Besides providing direct employment at its operations center and area stores, money from its stores also funds the organization's work to help the disabled and others with employment barriers find work.